The CDC came out with a report recently, citing troubling results in regards to suicide. They said that, between the years of 1999 and 2016, suicides continuously rose in just about every state — “Suicide rates went up more than 30% in half of states since 1999.” They also made a clarification: “More than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition,” dismissing the idea that it is only a problem for those with mental health problems. There can be many contributing factors, and the CDC mentions finance, legal or work stressors, substance abuse, relationship issues, or a personal crisis as some of the very ordinary causes of serious depression that can lead to self harm.

Read the CDC report here — it has several infographics that are very informative and easy to understand.

Here are some of the other key facts:

  • Approximately 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016.
  • 54% of suicides did not have a known mental health condition.
  • Of that 54%, the primary reported factor for suicide was relationship problems. The second was a “crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks,” and the third was substance abuse.
  • The most common ways of suicide in both with or without diagnosed mental health conditions was with a firearm. Suffocation and poisoning were also common.
  • The highest rates of increasing suicides appear to be in the northwest and the midwest, in states like Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and North and South Dakota. These states have had an increase of suicide between 38 and 58% since 1999.
  • The states with the least amounts of increase appear to be southern border and/or coastal states, like California, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and Georgia. These states have seen an increase of 6 to 18% since 1999.
    (Note: These statistics measure the rates of increase, not to be confused with overall suicide numbers)

All of these harrowing statistics are more than just numbers for the many who knew and loved someone who has taken their own life. However, this CDC report was once again made a reality as the death of Anthony Bourdain has shocked the world. Despite his rocky history with substance abuse as a young man, by all accounts Bourdain embodied a lifestyle that many could only dream about. In 2016, he told that, “I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car – a really nice car – and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights.” He was an icon that inspired travel and a respect for other cultures, and he illustrated those things through a medium he loved — food.

Still, Bourdain was found dead from an apparent suicide on Friday, June 8. This has also happened after the recent suicide of Kate Spade, fashion designer and wildly successful businesswoman.

Many of these suicides stem from mental health problems, and as the CDC has made clear, many do not.

Author’s opinion:

What has been made clear, especially from celebrity suicides that come from celebrities of all walks of life — from the world of high-fashion to the traveling wisdom of Bourdain — is that these issues are not solved with “success” in the sense that some think. Though most people will never reach those levels of fame and prosperity, the mentality of: “if only I had more” is prevalent throughout the United States. While it’s important to pursue passions, dreams and to find fulfillment (be it in a career, family or something else), the battle of mental health is an internal one. If it is not fought internally, then it will be lost.

Someone could be “fine” 99.9% of the time, but if they lose the battle during that crucial 0.1% moment — suicide is permanent, and the future 99.9% of times will be gone. It only takes one successful attempt.

A lot of these statistics don’t seem to make sense — especially in regards to those who don’t have diagnosed mental health problems. Many of us live more comfortable lives than ever, and violent crimes are at an all-time low. Why then are rates of depression skyrocketing? Why the massive increase in suicide? Why the increase in seemingly pointless violent crime (like school shootings, as opposed to gang violence, war or personal feuds)?

A lot of answers aim to blame the easy targets like “this generation just sucks,” or “it’s all XYZ politician’s fault.” However, the only source that makes sense to me, that really speaks to these seemingly contradictory numbers, is Sebastian Junger’s book, “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.” I would recommend it to anyone living in modern, western culture, and though it has garnered a great deal of attention, I don’t think it is nearly enough to do the book justice. It does not provide the path forward, but I think it speaks to the origins of these issues we are seeing in our modern culture.

Featured image and bottom image courtesy of the USAF. Picture of Anthony Bourdain courtesy of Peabody Awards here, via Flickr.